Earning a Master's in Construction Management Online

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According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the U.S. construction industry employs over 7 million employees and annually creates structures worth $1.3 trillion. Construction managers are tasked with ensuring U.S. construction projects are completed on time and within budget, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11% growth in this industry from 2016-2026. A construction manager or site project manager typically holds a bachelor's degree, and employers often look for degrees in construction science, construction management, and civil engineering. Earning a master's in construction management online will position you to meet the educational expectations of construction managers today with the added benefit of additional experience and specialization, ultimately giving you an edge over the competition.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Construction Management?

With a master's in construction management online degree, students today can often fast-track career advancement. Specializing in a particular area of construction, like green building, gives master's graduates a competitive edge. As BLS notes, many firms today begin their search with candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree in construction science or a related area. By earning a master's in construction management, you stand out among other candidates because of your advanced credentials and additional expertise, factors valued highly by firms. Construction managers with several years of experience can also advance their careers by returning to school for their master's to learning additional skills.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Construction Management?

Pursuing Specialization

Pursuing a specialization allows students to become expertins in a specific subfield of construction. Sustainable or green building is just one example of a growing area of construction. The push to create new structures that minimize environmental impact also affects existing buildings and spaces, requiring them to receive an upgrade. As retrofits and complex construction projects grow, so too does a demand for construction managers with specialized training, which a construction management master's degree prepares you for. Top specializations in construction include sustainable/green construction, real estate development, and project management.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Construction managers possess a combination of skills that integrate business management, tech knowledge, strong communication, and critical thinking. A master's in construction management online degree prepares students for the next level of managing. An advanced degree opens the door to higher-level positions, oftentimes translating to a higher pay rate. Further, as BLS notes, construction managers also earn bonus pay commensurate with the amount of business they're able to generate.

Online Learning Technology

Regardless of your concentration, core courses in a master's in construction management online degree cover the latest in construction concepts, theories, principles, and technology. Mastering the latest technology is critical as programs assist with various aspects of construction including design, cost analysis, site logistics, and estimating bids. A construction management master's degree may fall under business at a school, but most often you'll find it part of a school or department dedicated to technology or engineering, underscoring the role of tech.

Prerequisites for Online Construction Management Programs

There are several prerequisites for a master's in construction management online degree that students may be asked to demonstrate or provide proof of during the application process. Keep in mind the specific parameters of the prerequisites will vary depending on choice of school and program.

    • Work Experience: Prior work experience is not typically a prerequisite to apply to a master's degree in construction management program; you can apply immediately after earning a bachelor's degree in a major other than construction. However, many who pursue a master's in construction management have years of experience. Students with an undergraduate degree in a subject other than construction can gain experience prior to their studies through an internship or entry-level position at a local company.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Some master's in construction management online programs require GRE scores, so check with the school and program regarding minimum score requirements. Some programs will waive the GRE requirement for students with an accredited bachelor's degree in construction management, engineering, or architecture.
    • Coursework: While a master's in construction management online degree is open to applicants from different majors, you may need to take a few foundational courses before you can begin graduate coursework in construction management. You'll also need to meet a minimum GPA for your undergraduate work, and the minimum requirement can vary by school and program.
    • Recommendations: Most master's in construction management online programs will request 1-3 letters of recommendation. To be safe, you should secure at least three letters from those who can attest to your academic and professional work. Letters should be requested at least two months ahead of time.
    • Essays: Many colleges and universities require a personal statement, statement of purpose, or personal essay as part of the application process. Check each school's guidelines to ensure your essay answers the question or topic.
    • Interviews: An interview request is a good sign for your admissions prospects. In some cases, the interview will be the last chance to make a lasting impression and convince the admissions board of your degree candidacy. In other cases, the interview takes place after the board already accepts you into a program; in these cases, the interview helps in other decisions, such as for a scholarship.
    • International Students Foreign students whose native language is not English will need to take either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Testing System) exam to affirm their English language skills. Deadlines may vary for international students versus those applying in the U.S.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Construction Management?

With the occupation projected to grow 11% by 2026, the employment prospects look promising for construction managers. This said, there is a considerable salary range for those who hold the position. According to BLS, salaries triple from the 10th percentile to the 90th from $54,810 to $159,560. Higher-end jobs in construction require a more particular skill set. Job experience is always a valuable asset, but higher education promotes a broader set of hard skills and prepares you to succeed in a specific area, such as project management or construction technology.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Construction Management Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Construction Managers

Median Pay: $91,370

Job Growth: 11%

Construction managers orchestrate all the components of a building project and ensure things get done on time, according to codes and regulations, and within budget. They oversee the hiring process and the preparation of cost estimates and timetables. The industry also refers to construction managers as general contractors and project managers (within the context of construction). This is a popular major for those who like running projects, leading teams, working with their hands, and achieving goals on a limited timeframe.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Median Pay: $137,720

Job Growth: 6%

Managers who work at architectural and engineering firms plan, direct, and coordinate activities affecting staff, budgets, and quality assurance. The activities they oversee vary, but one of their primary responsibilities is solving any technical problems that might derail a project. Architectural and engineering managers are analytical and strong communicators.

Cost Estimators

Median Pay: $63,110

Job Growth: 11%

Cost estimators are typically experts in a particular industry or product. In the construction industry, cost estimators crunch numbers to estimate what it will take to successfully complete a project. Cost estimators provide estimates on time, budget, materials, and labor. They also recommend ways to reduce costs without sacrificing safety or quality.

Landscape Architects

Median Pay: $65,760

Job Growth: 6%

Landscape architects design open spaces such as parks. They also meet with clients and prepare site plans and graphic representations. They use the latest technology, including CADD software, to prepare models and analyze factors like budgets, environmental impact, and future effects.

Source: BLS/Projections Central

Nontraditional Careers for Construction Management Graduates

In addition to traditional careers for construction management graduates, you could take your skill set and knowledge and apply them in non-traditional careers such as industrial designer or urban planner. By looking at the non-traditional, you open yourself up to more opportunities during your job search.

Career Stats Description

Urban and Regional Planners

Median Pay: $71,490

Job Growth: 13%

Urban and regional planners develop plans for land use to help meet community needs and revitalize neighborhoods, shopping districts, or recreational areas.

Skills Overlapped: Like construction managers, urban and regional planners use their analytical and business skills to create proposals and present them to clients. They must use math skills to estimate cost, account for materials and labor, and keep things running on time and on budget.

Industrial Designers

Median Pay: $65,970

Job Growth: 4%

Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering skills to conceive manufactured products, such as cars or toys.

Skills Overlapped: As with construction managers, an industrial designer must use analytical skills to determine what a project will need and devise ways to meet all requirements. Like landscape architects and general architects, industrial designers also rely on software to create models and representations, so they must be familiar with and capable of working with the latest technology.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paying for an Online Master's in Construction Management

The tuition for master's in construction management online programs varies by school. Factors that could influence tuition include the time needed to complete a degree and whether the program is available on campus or online. While the overall tuition for on-campus and online programs are comparable, other college costs like room and board and transportation can make a considerable difference. Online students often benefit from paying the same tuition as in-state students regardless of where they call home. To help defray costs, you should check for scholarships and grants at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as awards created for your specific focus of construction.

Scholarships for Online Construction Management Master's Students

A survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the 2015-16 academic year found that the average award for all public and private educational institutions was $11,810 or over 30% more than the average of $9,050 in 2009-10. Most college students, regardless of their income or degree level, can find some financial assistance to apply for. A good place to start your research is within your chosen industry, as there are always awards to help the future generation of workers.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Construction Management Program

A master's in construction management online program typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. Students interested in earning their construction management master's degree in that time should look into any other requirements for graduation, like an internship, which could lengthen the program overall. The master's in construction management degree is open to diverse majors; however, students with non-construction or engineering degrees will need to take some prerequisite courses before they can begin graduate studies. Through virtual classrooms, students from nearly anywhere can apply to an accredited master's in construction management program and fulfill the degree requirements. Online learning also lends to schedule flexibility, especially for any student with obligations outside of school.

Major Milestones

  1. Plan of Study

    To ensure that you stay on pace to complete your construction management master's degree on time, it's important to consult an academic adviser and map out a plan of study. Whether you are a part- or full-time graduate student, you'll gain a better idea of what courses to take, the sequence, and when.

  2. Capstone

    While students usually complete capstones in their undergraduate years, some master's programs will give you the choice between a culminating capstone project or writing a thesis paper. The capstone does not include an oral examination.

  3. Thesis

    Writing a thesis is a multistep process that graduate students begin in their final year. If you're attending full time, you will submit your preliminary draft to your adviser in the first semester of your second and final year. A thesis is an argumentative paper, and you will likely need to defend it during a final oral examination.

  4. Internship

    Some master's in construction management online programs will require an internship or field experience course, which allows you to gain more real-world experience at sites. Students will most likely take this course after their first year.

  5. Final Oral Examination

    After you submit the final draft of your thesis, you will need to make arrangements for an oral examination during which you defend your paper to a committee. An online program may remove this requirement. If this requirement remains, you can usually do so through web conference.

  6. Intent to Graduate

    One of the final steps you take as you ready for graduation from your master's degree in construction management program is to submit an intent-to-graduate form to the registrar's office. This form serves as your declaration that you are on track to fulfill every degree requirement and graduate at the end of the term.

Coursework

While curricula vary by program, you can expect the core courses to be similar in most all master's construction management programs. These core courses cover topics like budgets, estimating cost, materials, and scheduling.

Cost Estimating and Bidding

This course in a master's in construction management program delves further into the theory, procedures, and practices that enable construction managers to project cost estimates and formulate final bids. Topics include unit prices, lump-sum bids, overhead, and the impact of direct and indirect costs.

Schedule Impact Analysis

An advanced course, schedule impact analysis deals with legal aspects pertaining to construction timelines and schedules. The course addresses the impact of not meeting a deadline, the calculation of daily damages, and the mitigation of contract claims.

Functions of the Constructor

This course explores the many hats a constructor wears throughout the life of a construction project. Students learn about the systems, processes, and constraints that govern the various phases of a construction project including initiation, direction, build and engineering, and delivery.

Planning and Scheduling

Students in this core course of an online master's degree in construction management study how to create an efficient schedule that covers all bases. Construction projects rely on schedules that construction managers must constantly stay abreast of, whether it pertains to the staffing, materials, deliveries, or new requests.

Leadership in Construction

Learners explore leadership principles and apply them to construction. This core course will cover both organizational leadership as well as project management in the construction industry.

Degree Timelines

The study timelines needed to complete a master's in construction management online program depend on a number of factors, most significantly whether or not you attend on a full- or part-time basis and whether you choose an accelerated program.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description

Part-Time

3-4 Years

For a part-time student, a master's degree in construction management takes about twice as long to complete as it does for full-timers. Typically, part-time students attending online take six credits per semester. Taking courses part time works for students who have other obligations outside of school, such as work or family.

Full-Time

1.5-2 Years

To be considered a full-time enrollee, a student must take 9-12 credits per semester. A program that requires 30-36 credits to complete can take a student less than two years to fulfill. The average, however, is two years, with a student taking nine credits per term (minus the summer). Students who take summer courses could finish in four semesters.

Accelerated

Less Than One Year

A student in an accelerated master's degree in construction management could complete requirements in less than 12 months. To do so, the student needs to take classes full time and the school must offer more start dates than the traditional two semesters. In some cases, schools offer four, five, or six term dates a year.

Licenses and Certifications

To work in construction, some states require licensure. For example, in California, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) issues licenses in 44 different classifications. To ensure you're in compliance with your state's laws, contact your state licensing board.

As for certification, while not required, it can prove valuable in demonstrating your knowledge and experience. As a graduate of a master's in construction management online program, you'll choose a specialization, like sustainable building or real estate development. Certification in your area of expertise can give you a competitive edge and help open doors to more job opportunities.

    • Certified Construction Manager: For construction managers, the CCM certification signifies the holder is expert in all phases of a construction project. Over 4,000 professionals hold the CCM certification. To earn this certification from the Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI), you must pass an exam.
    • Certified Professional Constructor: Those who earn AC certification and accrue four more years of experience can sit for the CPC exam, which is composed of 175 questions. CPC applicants have two chances every year to take the exam. Without AC certification, applicants must bring at least eight years of professional experience.
    • LEED Green Associate: This credential is the first step to earning a professional certification in building design and operations, operations and maintenance, interior design and construction, residential homes, or neighborhood development.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Networking opportunities are the most cited benefit of joining a professional organization. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, there are over 7 million employees in the construction industry alone. Professional organization participation can help applicants stand out among other applicants, leading to job opportunities, and career advancement. For current students and recent grads, a professional organization can be that invaluable resource that keeps you on track and pointed in the right direction for both school and your career. Many professional organizations also offer scholarships and financial awards to members.

  • Construction Management Association of America: Formed in 1982, CMAA sets the industry standards for construction and project managers. The association serves more than 16,000 members and offers benefits like webinars, CMAA library resources, online learning modules, and study kits. CMAA maintains 29 regional chapters.
  • Design-Build Institute of America: DBIA represents more than 5,000 members and offers benefits including training courses, networking opportunities, and assistance with exam prep. The association's members hail from various fields within construction and design.
  • Associated General Contractors of America: Through a network of chapters across the nation, AGC unites over 6,500 general contractors and some 9,000 specialty contracting firms. Member firms gain access to AGC's menu of products, programs, and services in support of business growth.
  • American Institute of Constructors: AIC promotes individual professionalism for all construction-related fields, placing constructors at the same level as other professionals in the A/E/C industry, namely those in architecture, engineering, and law.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors: Established in 1950, ABC believes that construction projects should go to the most qualified and responsible low bidders and clients should award contracts based on merit. The national association represents all specialties in the construction industry.
  • ASCE Student Member Resources: The American Society of Civil Engineers provides members with an assortment of programs and resources to assist them in their careers. In addition to certificate programs, ASCE also offers face-to-face seminars and online courses.
  • International Journal of Construction Management: This academic journal publishes articles about construction, engineering, and architecture that help professionals run their business, touching on topics like work efficiency, new materials, and budgets.
  • Construction Global: This digital magazine provides coverage of current trends, global issues, and changes within the construction industry. Aspiring construction managers can read on green building, contract bids and awards, and advances in equipment and tech.
  • CFMA Education Online: Created by the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), this learning resource offers a growing database of webinars, online courses, and CPE (continuing professional education) tools to CFMA members.